Samoa’s unique history is evident in everyday life and traditions, but also through some of Samoa’s fascinating historic locations. From cultural sites to natural wonders, here are a few suggestions to help you take a journey, not just through the country, but through its history.
Here are a few suggestions of taking a trip not just through Samoa, but a journey through the centuries.
Samoa’s most recent volcanic eruption of Mt Matavanu, which occurred between 1905 and 1911, left many scars on the landscape. The lava overtook swathes of land and destroyed villages and churches, but thankfully was so slow-moving that all the people in its path had time to escape safely.
A notable relic of the eruption is the skeleton of a church near the Saleaula Lava Fields, which remained standing as lava surrounded and flowed through it. Be sure to leave time to read the information signs that explain what happened during the eruption.
On the top of beautiful, deeply traditional Manono Island is a mysterious ancient mound. Constructed of earth and stones, it is thought the 12-pointed mounds were built up to 1000 years ago when Tonga occupied areas of Samoa.
One of around 300 recorded mounds in Samoa and the Pacific, this ‘star’ mound is located on the flat peak of the 110-metre-high Mount Tulimanuiva. Theories behind their use vary from pigeon catching to a religious ritual that celebrated the connection of people and the stars.
At Manono Island’s Lepuia’i village in the southwest, there’s another archaeological site worth seeing. The ‘Grave of 99 Stones’, according to myths, represent the 99 wives of the ill-fated high chief Vaovasa. He was said to have been killed by villagers as he tried to escape from Upolu with his 100th abducted wife.
Vaovasa’s body was purportedly brought back to Manono Island for burial in a grave built with the final 100th stone, however, his grave went unfinished. Today, you can still see a large gap where the final stone was to be placed.
This beautiful plantation was home to Scottish writer and poet, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1895), who chose to settle in Samoa in the 1890s. Today, the plantation home is now a museum dedicated to his life.
The author and poet is best known for his novels Treasure Island (1881), Kidnapped (1886), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and The Master of Ballantrae (1889). Stevenson’s Samoan mansion and beautiful gardens have been preserved in its original state and features his library, travel mementos and personal belongings.
As a popular and well-respected member of the Apia community, when Stevenson died at age 44, he was buried on top of Mount Vaea overlooking the sea. Today, visitors can visit his tomb at the top of the summit and experience the beautiful views overlooking Apia.
Mulifanua is a tiny village located on the northern most tip of Upolu. In the 1970s, the nearby ocean floor was found to contain thousands of pieces of pottery, which when investigated, was found to be remnants of Samoa’s oldest known site of human occupation.
The village’s name ‘Lapita’ was justifiably given after a prehistoric Pacific Ocean culture by the same name which was known for beautiful pottery making. The area is fascinating, and what’s more, the partially submerged site is set in a beautiful lagoon in Mulifanua.
Underneath an unassuming rise of dense vegetation lies the largest ancient structure in Polynesia. The Pulemelei Mound (or pyramid) is situated within the Letolo Plantation in Palauli, at the east end of Savai'i. Thought to have been built around 1,400 AD, its true use – possibly ceremonial or as a burial site – remains a mystery.
Today, the pyramid has taken those mysteries with it. Locals often struggle to find the structure, which is covered and surrounded by thick jungle as it has been for thousands of years.
Falealili church remains, Upolu
The remnant of the old Methodist Church at Malaemalu on Upolu’s south coast marks where, unwittingly, many lives were saved. In the 1970s, the community decided to move 2km inland leaving the church to ruin.
The move was believed to have been a result of seawater encroaching on the community. It was to be a hugely fortunate decision, as the devastating tsunami in 2009 swept through the old settlement stopping short of modern-day Malaemalu.